TRUTH ON TRIAL: Ascension Community Theatre stages intense drama with ‘The Crucible’

Michael Tortorich
Kevin White, John Sallinger and Joel Sunsin perform a scene.

The bar has been raised yet again for Ascension Community Theatre.

The main stage is poised for a high rise in emotions as the fall production of “The Crucible” opens its run Thursday night.

The play will be a familiar one for director Heidi Alford Frederic and some of the cast, who all worked on the show previously at Dutchtown High School.

Frederic, who now teaches theater at St. Amant High School, has been working with some of her former students. This time around, they are ready to bring the piece to a new level.

“It’s like getting back in touch with an old friend,” said Bryan Songy, one of the former Dutchtown students who previously performed the play four years ago.

Songy, who plays the Rev. John Hale, said the piece is a timeless one as its subject matter is as relevant currently as it was when Arthur Miller wrote it in 1953.

Miller wrote “The Crucible” as a dramatization of the Salem witchcraft trials that took place in Massachusetts around 1692. It was a response to 1950s-era McCarthyism when the United States government blacklisted accused communists.

The play was performed on Broadway in 1953, and won a “Best Play” Tony Award.

It has been adapted to film twice, notably in 1996 with a cast including Paul Scofield, Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder.

Frederic, along with assistant director Cody Ikerd, are working with a cast of both ACT main stage veterans and newcomers.

“I want people to see the talent,” Frederic said.

The fifth show she has directed, it has been “one of the closest to my heart,” she said.

Frederic is a member of ACT’s Board of Directors and heads its production and play reading committee.

“She’s fantastic,” said Samuel Bryan, who plays John Proctor. “ She really loves this play and feels its tenderness.”

Bryan makes his debut on the main stage after a stint on the second stage performing “Fear and Trembling” with Garrett Allain.

Bryan said Proctor is “what any man would desire himself to be.”

“He’s very driven,” he added.

Bryan plays alongside Megan Davis Dewberry, who portrays Elizabeth Proctor.

“It is a challenging role,” Dewbery said. “It’s very different. Elizabeth is a subservient, yet strong character.”

Dewberry was previously in ACT’s “Fiddler on the Roof” and “A Night of One Acts” this year.

Keirston Besse, who plays Abigail Williams, was also a part of Dutchtown’s rendition of “The Crucible.”

“She’s devious. It’s been very fun to play. The language is challenging in some ways, but she’s so over-the-top that it makes for a fun character to play,” said Besse, who is a performance major at LSU.

The actors agreed that the cast’s talents are particularly strong.

“The talent is just amazing,” Dewberry said. “It’s been great working alongside everyone.”

The cast includes John Sallinger as Deputy Governor Danforth, Michael Ruffin as the Rev. Samuel Parris, Alicia Austin as Mary Warren, Thomas Daniel as Giles Corey, Michael Mason as Thomas Putnam, Christine Norred as Ann Putnam, Mandi Ridgdell as Tituba, Joel Sunsin as Ezekiel Cheever, Christina Normand as Rebecca Nurse, B.J. Taylor as Francis Nurse, Laci Laurendine as Mercy Lewis, Lauren Meyers as Susanna Walcott, Bryn Purvis as Betty Parris, Aaron Tureau as Marshal Herrick, Kelly Martin as Sarah Good and Annette Ambeau as Martha Corey.

Performances are Thursdays through Sundays, Nov. 5-8 and Nov. 12-14. Thursday through Saturday performances are at 7 p.m. Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m.

Shows will be at The Pasqua Theatre, 823 N. Felicity Ave., Gonzales.

Admission is $12-$25.

For tickets or more information, call 225-647-1230 or visit www.ascensioncommunitytheatre.org.

Samuel Bryan and Megan Dewberry perform.